At the Microsoft Institute for Advanced Technology in Governments, our mission is to look toward the next wave of government needs, advising and supporting customers around the impact of emerging technologies.
My previous career in the UK Government’s law enforcement, security and intelligence communities that led to a position on this team of forward-thinking government strategists and advisors provides an interesting backdrop for examining the technology trends and issues within international public safety and national security agencies. I’ve experienced the impact of technology from both sides of the desk, and it’s safe to say that the solutions available to today’s organizations – in particular, cloud and cyber technology – are poised to fundamentally change the way the public sector serves the public.
Firstly, the proliferation of cloud technology is poised to be one of the most significant game-changers ever for both governments and citizens. Beyond cost savings – which are clearly still a critical need during this new age of austerity – the cloud opens up tremendous possibilities for data aggregation, analysis and sharing that can exponentially increase both the efficiency and effectiveness of the public sector.
Law enforcement agencies face a unique dichotomy when assessing the opportunities and challenges of cloud operations. On one hand, they can benefit enormously from the variety of information available through open social media and mobile data, as well as collaboration across agencies. On the other, they often struggle with a fear of the potential security issues that can accompany a public cloud infrastructure hosted by third-party data centers. In this case, a hybrid public-private cloud can help agencies realize the benefits of a cloud environment while also keeping data highly secure, by hosting some data within a public cloud and other highly sensitive data in a dedicated private cloud customized to meet their specific security needs. This allows agencies to harness the power of vast amounts of data, which can provide insights crucial for informed decision-making, while also keeping private data safe. The more we continue to see the benefits of cloud environments for cost savings, efficiency, collaboration and improved citizen services, the more hybrid clouds emerge as a best-in-class solution for law enforcement agencies.
Beyond law enforcement agencies, there are also opportunities to gain efficiencies by sharing data across government agencies like public health, welfare, and education. In many cases, a small number of families create a disproportionate burden on multiple public agencies, which can create costly redundancies in government resources. Sharing information in a cross-agency cloud could help detect patterns and identify new ways to address chronic issues with these families, reducing inefficiencies that can tax already limited resources. In nearly every case, increasing the availability of data across agencies creates a more informed government workforce that is better equipped to serve the public effectively.
Secondly, cyber security continues to be a top priority for government customers in every region across the globe. Cyber attacks continue to become increasingly volatile, persistent, and sophisticated, and the impact on public sector organizations could be devastating without the right solutions in place to contain them. Our vantage point as a global software and services provider allows insight into current and developing cyber threats across a huge network of systems and users beyond any that a single government could access. This position enables us to identify patterns in emerging threats (such as the recent surges in ransomware, mobile attacks, and repurposed malware), and we’re able to leverage that knowledge into forward-looking cyber strategies as well as immediate remediation tactics. And, as technology underpins more and more critical infrastructure networks around the world, this will be an important focus area for both Microsoft and governments customers in both the immediate and long term.
From cyber threats to social media to hybrid clouds, the Institute is working with public sector agencies to explore new technology frontiers in ways we never dreamed possible – pushing the envelope in flexibility, collaboration, efficiency and productivity to address the unique challenges of our global networks and beyond.